Gilbert Harman has argued that it does not make sense to ascribe character traits to people. The notion of morally virtuous character becomes particularly suspect. How plausible this is depends on how broad character traits would have to be. Views of character as entirely invariant behavioural tendencies offer a soft target. This paper explores a view that is a less easy target: character traits as specific to kinds of situation, and as involving probabilities or real possibilities. Such ascriptions are not (...) undermined by Harman's arguments, and it remains plausible that the agent's character often is indispensable in explanation of behaviour. Character is indispensable also as processes of control that impose reliability where it really matters. (shrink)
Politicians, preachers, and ordinary people speak often of character; psychologists study `personality', used as a term of art with meanings close to `character'. Most ethical philosophers in the last two hundred years, on the other hand, have not had much to say about character. This book attempts to understand character and to refocus ethical philosophy so that character is central.
This paper represents two polemics. One is against suggestions (made by Harman and others) that recent psychological research counts against any claim that there is such a thing as genuine virtue (Cf. Harman, in: Byrne, Stalnaker, Wedgwood (eds.) Fact and value, pp 117–127, 2001 ). The other is against the view that virtue ethics should be seen as competing against such theories as Kantian ethics or consequentialism, particularly in the specification of decision procedures.
A major reason that Confucius should matter to Western ethical philosophers is that some of his concerns are markedly different from those most common in the West. A Western emphasis has been on major choices that are treated in a decontextualized way. Confucius’ emphasis is on paths of life, so that context matters. Further, the nuances of personal relations get more attention than is common (with the exception of feminist ethics) in Western philosophy. What Confucius provides is a valuable aid (...) in arriving at a more balanced sense of what ethics is concerned with. It also allows us to realize the importance of sensitivity to particulars. Finally, it highlights the importance of style (as well as the content of what is chosen) in behavior, and the ways in which relations with family and friends can connect with choices in a wider “public” sphere. (shrink)
Principles can seem as entrenched in moral experience as Kant thinks space, time, and the categories are in human experience of the world. However not all cultures have such a view. Classical Indian and Chinese philosophies treat modification of the self as central to ethics. Decisions in particular cases and underlying principles are much less discussed. Ethics needs comparative philosophy in order not to be narrow in its concerns. A broader view can give weight to how people sometimes can change (...) who they are, in order to lead better lives. (shrink)
Principles can seem as entrenched in moral experience as Kant thinks space, time, and the categories are in human experience of the world. However not all cultures have such a view. Classical Indian and Chinese philosophies treat modification of the self as central to ethics. Decisions in particular cases and underlying principles are much less discussed.Ethics needs comparative philosophy in order not to be narrow in its concerns. A broader view can give weight to how people sometimes can change who (...) they are, in order to lead better lives. (shrink)
Might there be knowledge of non-instrumental values? Arguments are give for two principal claims. One is that if there is such knowledge, it typically will have features that do not entirely match those of other kinds of knowledge. It will have a closer relation to the kind of person one is or becomes, and in the way it combines features of knowing-how with knowing-that. There also are problems of indeterminacy of non-instrumental value which are not commonly found in other things (...) that we can know about. The second claim is that there is a strong prima-facie case for holding that there is such knowledge, and that the usual arguments against this are all faulty. (shrink)
Emotions normally include elements of feeling, motivation, and also intentionality; but the argument of this essay is that there can be emotion without feeling, emotion without corresponding motivation, and emotion without an intentional relation to an object such that the emotion is (among other things) a belief about or construal of it. Many recent writers have claimed that some form of intentionality is essential to emotion, and then have created lines of defence for this thesis. Thus, what look like troublesome (...) cases of emotions can be regarded as having a global intentionality or as being “mood-like”. Alternatively surges of non-intentional joy or ecstasy can be regarded as merely feelings rather than as emotions, and what people experience in response to absolute music can be treated similarly. A clear view of how we normally talk about moods, emotions, and feelings however undermines these defences; and in particular we can understand the role of emotions in relation to absolute music once we become clear about the way in which musical content stands in for intentional objects. (shrink)
The essay has two purposes. One is to point out connections and parallels between, On one hand, The debates of metaphysical realists and anti-Realists, And on the other hand, The debates surrounding moral realism. The second is to provide the outlines of a case for a kind of position that would generally be classified as moral realism. One feature of this position is that it emerges as parallel to, And compatible with, A metaphysical position that would generally be classified as (...) anti-Realism. (shrink)
Might there be knowledge of non‐instrumental values? Arguments are give for two principal claims. One is that if there is such knowledge, it typically will have features that do not entirely match those of other kinds of knowledge. It will have a closer relation to the kind of person one is or becomes, and in the way it combines features of knowing‐how with knowing‐that. There also are problems of indeterminacy of non‐instrumental value which are not commonly found in other things (...) that we can know about. The second claim is that there is a strong prima‐facie case for holding that there is such knowledge, and that the usual arguments against this are all faulty. (shrink)
The paper plays against the philosophical stereotype that facts are bits of reality, ‘furniture of the universe’, and that values in contrast are either mysterious bits of reality or responses to facts. It follows Strawson in regarding facts as interpretative constructs. Values also are interpretative constructs, characterized by a normal (but not universal) connection with motivations. So is there a deep difference? There is a sense of ‘facts’, marked by phrases such as ‘Stick to the facts’, in which the interpretative (...) element embedded in a ‘fact’ is uncontentious and would be invisible to most people. The interpretative element in values, in contrast, usually is very noticeable. But values in which this element comes to be uncontentious and taken for granted congeal into facts. (shrink)
Here are two widespread responses to Kant's categorical imperative. On one hand, one might note the absence of detailed rational derivation. On the other hand, even someone who maintains some skepticism is likely to have a sense that (nevertheless) there is something to Kant's central ideas. The recommended solution is analysis of elements of the categorical imperative. Their appeal turns out to have different sources. One aspect of the first formulation rests on the logic of normative utterances. But others can (...) be justified only in terms of their contributions to desirable functionings of a moral order. (shrink)
For the “respectable” part of society there can be a presumption of virtuousness, rather like the presumption of innocence in the law. In both cases, the presumption can be defeated, as we learn more and get into specifics. We still might insist that to be genuinely virtuous is to be able to pass the more familiar sorts of tests of virtue, and to be reliably virtuous also in the ordinary business of life, especially in things that really matter. Something like (...) this is a necessary condition for virtue. Factors of motivation, especially those related to what a person's basic concerns are, can vary enormously. Imagine an extreme case. Someone might be inherently indifferent to what happens to other people, and have no sense of the inherent dignity or worthiness of moral principles, but also be totally convinced that God is watching his or her every move, and that the prospects of heaven or hell depend heavily on one's following accepted morality at every step. (shrink)
In the 1950's some prominent philosophers suggested a logical relation weaker than entailment between primarily descriptive statements and ethical conclusions. The paper revisits this suggestion. It examines four ways in which ethical statemnts can be supported by descriptions and evaluations. This provides a similarity bteween some kinds of reason-giving in ethics and familiar cases of logical inference, making it plausible to speak of a logic. The similarity however is limited, and the strength in ethics of descriptive reasons is never precise (...) and always somewhat contestable. (Published Online October 13 2005). (shrink)
My thesis is that advocacy in the classroom is rarely appropriate with regard to live moral, political, or social issues, and for that matter not always appropriate with regard to issues within a discipline. By advocacy I mean a teacher's presenting a view as her or his own in a way that might well elicit students' agreement. My argument against advocacy is supported by two sets of assumptions. One concerns the aims of higher education. The other concerns a distinction between (...) moral, political, and social issues that can be regarded as subjects of legitimate disagreement, on one hand, and on the other hand issues of these sorts that cannot be so regarded. (shrink)
This anthology provides a set of distinctive, influential views that explore the mysteries of human nature from a variety of perspectives. It can be read on its own, or in conjunction with Joel Kupperman’s text, _Theories of Human Nature_.
Now available together as a set for a discounted price: _Theories of Human Nature_, with, _Human Nature: A Reader_, by Joel J. Kupperman. _On _Theories of Human Nature_:_A very fine book on human nature, both what it is and what philosophers have thought about it--philosophers in an inclusive sense, from Plato and Aristotle to Mengzi and Xunzi, from Hume and Kant to Ibn al-Arabi to Marx and Rousseau and including many others. The writing is lively and accessible, the philosophy insightful, (...) and the sense of human possibilities conveyed admirable. It will fit nicely into many different sorts of classes. --John Perry, Stanford University _On _Nature: A Reader_:_ This anthology provides a set of distinctive, influential views that explore the mysteries of human nature from a variety of perspectives. (shrink)
Many would consider the lengthening debate between moral realists and anti-realists to be draw-ish. Plainly new approaches are needed. Or might the issue, which most broadly concerns realism in relation to normative judgments, be broken down into parts or sectors? Physicists have been saying, in relation to a similarly longstanding debate, that light in some respects behaves like waves and in some respects like particles. Might realism be more plausible in relation to some kinds of normative judgments than others?
Critics often give reasons in support of their evaluations of works of art. They say, for example, that a work is bad because it is repetitive, or the characters are not well-delineated, or the colors are too uniformly bright. Or they say that a work is good because of the delicate balance of colors, its wit and excitement, or the way in which each variation of the theme is fresh and yet related to the previous variation.
Half-truths are statements that have some insight or truth in them, but do not amount to a final or definitive truth that all competent judges should be able to accept. Complete truth requires that the relevant interpretative structures can be taken for granted, and can be expected to be understood by all competent language users. Disciplines such as philosophy, history, and sociology do contain a small number of complete truths, concerning some logical relations or such matters as the year of (...) Columbus' arrival in the new world or recorded vote totals in some elections. But most of what they yield (the most interesting part) will consist of half-truths. (shrink)
Characteristically religious ethical systems consist of much more than a morality: that is, much more than judgments marked by serious societal pressure and the appropriateness in offenders of a sense of moral guilt. Religious ethics characteristically demands also control and modification of thoughts and desires. This supra-moral element is prominent in Buddhism, where it flourishes primarily in the "Samgha". The ethics of Buddhism can be understood only by means of a concept of the supra-moral.